Rolling Stones: Bridges To Babylon (1998)
If there has ever been a band totally deserving of the title of "bad boys of rock & roll, " it is the Rolling Stones. Amazingly, this band is still going strong in their 35th year. It seems as if all the drug and alcohol excess that consumed the band hardly slowed it down, instead strengthening the members’ wills and, more importantly, their song writing skills. Their latest release "Bridges To Babylon" contained a number of interesting compositions and arrangements that prove that the Stones are far from being senile or outdated. Warner Home Video have now released the "Bridges To Babylon" video on DVD. It is a packed 120-minute live concert recording of the band, featuring 20 fiery songs in what was one of the most spectacular rock shows of the year.
The concert video opens with an impressive sweep over the audience’s heads, exploring the ominous, dimly illuminated stage, when a cheerful Keith Richards enters center stage, playing the opening riff of "Satisfaction", accompanied by a dazzling visual effect. It has been a long time since the band first played this song, and the boys have come a long way since their time as a wild, angry, and rebellious group of youngsters ready to conquer the world. Despite their age, the band and their now-classic songs still have a furious energy that can hardly be held in check. The sheer dimension of the "Bridges To Babylon" stage set-up quickly proves that the Rolling Stones have achieved everything you can possibly achieve as a rock and roll band. The Stones have, in fact, conquered the world, and they have captured the hearts of three generations with their music. It doesn’t come as a surprise that the audience is immediately off their seats when Mick Jagger dances his way to the front of the stage to intone the first notes of what will become a truly memorable concert.
To me the Stones are like wine. They get better as they age, and this concert clearly stresses that notion. If you thought "Voodoo Lounge" was a spectacular show and the ultimate highlight in the Rolling Stones’ careers, think again. On this disc you will hear the Stones at their best. Not only is the song selection perfectly balanced, their sequence is also nicely arranged to build up to a spectacular finale in the show’s third quarter. What is even more impressive is how some of the Stones classics come alive in this concert. Songs like "Honky Tonk Woman", "Brown Sugar", and especially "Jumping Jack Flash" have never seen such strong renditions, defying their age with an energy that belies the truth that the band has played these songs countless times. They burst with energy and clarity that I have never heard before. At times, I used to wonder what keeps the Stones going, but watching this concert pretty much tells it all. It is clearly the fun and the enjoyment Ron Wood and Charlie Watts have playing with each other, as well as the undeniable chemistry between Jagger and Richards. Then, when Woods and Richards start bombarding each other with the riffs and solos of their songs, the smiles on their faces say more than a thousand words and make you wish the Rolling Stones could be around for yet another 30 years.
The "Bridges To Babylon" concert was taped with a number of well-placed cameras, allowing for excellent editing on the material while still keeping the focus of the concert as the center of attention. The image quality is generally good, although the limitations of the original video recording are visible in a few details. Nevertheless, the image is very well defined with sharp edges and solid colors. The compression is very good, without noticeable artifacts or <$pixelation,pixelation>. Colors are very good and strong and hardly any color bleeding is visible. Overall, the image quality is astounding, considering that it came from a video source and not from film.
The disc features a <$5.1,5.1 channel> <$DD,Dolby Digital> soundtrack as well as a Stereo Dolby Digital track. Both are very well mixed and sound extremely lively. The <$5.1,5.1 channel> mix breathes and reproduces the very fine spatial integration of the show’s mix. The concert itself was well mixed and balanced, although Keef’s guitar seems to be a tad too dominant at times. That, however, makes for an even better listening experience, as it allows you to dissect his signature playing style and sound, a style filled with country licks and lead fills, that has become the most recognizable part of the Stones’ music, ever since the band showed these country influences in the early ‘70s. Keith Richards has reduced these elements and various influences to a very simple formula that defines the music of the Rolling Stones. He boils it down to feel emotion, raw and simple!
You can say what you want about the Rolling Stones, but there can be no mistake that the Rolling Stones rock! Fitter than ever, better than ever, and bigger than ever, they present themselves on this great concert DVD from Warner Music Video. No question, this disc has to go into every Stones fans’ collection but I would also like to invite everyone who just tends to "like" the Rolling Stones to give this disc a shot. If, after watching and listening to this disc’s crystal clear Dolby Digital soundtrack, you are still not converted, chances are the Stones are just not for you. But that, I doubt!